Robert Ubell (Columnist)
September 21, 2023
Most of us know what to expect in a face-to-face classroom: Students sitting in rows, facing instructors and listening to lectures, watching videos displayed on screens up front, or, in smaller classes, participating in lively discussion. Altogether, a modest set of conventional choices we’re all familiar with as students and faculty on campus.
But in the last couple of decades, since the introduction of online instruction in higher ed, students now expect a much wider range of options — a collection of novel approaches, inconceivable before the digital revolution, including participating online in breakout rooms, joining online study groups, watching recordings of class sessions posted later for study and reflection, and more.
But are colleges paying attention to what online students want most? Are virtual classes delivering what they expect?
These days senior college leaders should be eager to find out, as enrollment overall is falling even while interest in online courses is on the rise. A recent analysis of federal government data by Jeff Seaman of Bayview Analytics shows that enrollment in on-campus courses fell nearly 11 percent in the past decade and almost 30 percent from 2020 to 2021. In contrast, enrollment in online courses shot up from nearly 34 percent over the 10-year period and leaped 110 percent in the first years of the pandemic.